2017 Pioneer Football League Season Preview

Publish date:

(STATS) - FCS nation was all set to put the first day of the national playoffs to bed last Thanksgiving weekend when the final game of the first round out in California turned out to be the most significant.

San Diego avenged a 22-point loss to Cal Poly in the regular season with a 35-21 triumph - the first playoff win in Pioneer Football League history.

"I think it brought some attention to our program specifically and I think it brought some attention to our league," San Diego coach Dale Lindsey still remembers. "Our league is quite a good football league, I think it's a lot better than people think.

"I've been impressed with it all the way back to 2008 when I came here and worked for Ron Caraghy. I was amazed that you have non-scholarship football that the players were that big, that strong and that fast. I realize that maybe we lose some of the bigger, stronger, faster players to the scholarship schools, but, all in all, it's still really good, sound football."

The momentum continued for the PFL in the spring, when the league doubled its all-time NFL Draft picks with two fifth-round selections, San Diego cornerback Jamal Agnew going to the Detroit Lions and Drake tight end Eric Saubert going to the Atlanta Falcons.

The PFL doesn't want the fun to stop. Dayton (12) and San Diego (eight) have won the most championships in league history and are favored to lead this year's title race. But both face question marks after suffering many senior losses. Also, San Diego has to survive five trips to the Eastern time zone and Dayton has faced an injury to quarterback Alex Jeske that has kept him out of preseason camp.

Following is a team-by-team breakdown of the 2017 Pioneer Football League race and STATS' predicted order of finish:

1. San Diego

2. Dayton

3. Marist

4. Campbell

5. Drake

6. Jacksonville

7. Morehead State

8. Butler

9. Valparaiso

10. Stetson

11. Davidson





STADIUM: Torero Stadium

COACH: Dale Lindsey (36-10, four seasons)

2016 RECORDS: 10-2, 8-0 PFL (1st); No. 19 in final STATS FCS Top 25

STARTERS RETURNING: 12 (8 offense/4 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Jonah Hodges, RB; Brian Riley, WR; Jamal Agnew, CB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Anthony Lawrence, QB, R-Jr. (223 of 326, 2,811 yards, 24 TD, 7 INT)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Jonathan Petersen, DE, Sr. (44 TT, 20.5 TFL, 11.5 Sacks, 13 QBH, 3 FF, 2 BK)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Blake Martin, RB, R-Sr.; Justin Priest, WR, Sr.; Ross Dwelley, TE, Sr.; Miles McArdle, OT, Sr.; Daniel Cooney, OT, Jr.; Joe Hurney, C, Sr.; Jake Arlotti, RG, R-Jr.; Trevor Provencio, LG, R-Jr.; Connor Spencer, DT, R-Jr.; K.J. Mahoney, LB, R-Jr.; Ray Clark, S, Sr.; Colton Girogi, S, Sr.; Max Michaels, NB, Sr.; Patrick Murray, PK, Sr.

OUTLOOK: A year after earning the PFL's first FCS playoff win, the defending champion has the same breakdown of returning starters as rival Dayton (eight on offense and four on defense). It's impossible for the Toreros to replace Hodges (176.6 all-purpose yards per game), but they did redshirt Martin (329 yards in 2015) last season in preparation for this year, and their offensive line is the league's best. Lawrence is a two-time first-team All-PFL signal caller who will keep looking for Dwelley (65 receptions for 795 yards and nine TDs), one the nation's top tight ends. The defense features fierce pass rusher Petersen and has excellent safeties in Giorgi, last year's leading tackler, and Clark.


Sept. 2, Western New Mexico

Sept. 9, at UC Davis

Sept. 16, at Princeton

Sept. 23, Butler*

Sept. 30, at Dayton*

Oct. 14, Morehead State*

Oct. 21, at Jacksonville*

Oct. 28, at Stetson*

Nov. 4, Drake*

Nov. 11, at Davidson*

Nov. 18, Marist*

* - PFL game



LOCATION: Dayton, Ohio

STADIUM: Welcome Stadium

COACH: Rick Chamberlin (74-27, nine seasons)

2016 RECORDS: 9-2, 7-1 PFL (2nd)

STARTERS RETURNING: 12 (8 offense/4 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Christopher Beaschler, LB; Chris Hagan, LB/DB; William Will, PK

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Alex Jeske, QB, R-Sr. (149 of 265, 1,936 yards, 15 TD, 6 INT; 121 carries, 687 yards, 15 TD)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Christian Searles, CB/RS, R-Sr. (36 TT, 2 TFL, 5 INT, 11 PBU, 1 FR, 1 BK)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Will Bobek, QB, R-So.; Kyle Kaparos, QB, R-So.; Tucker Yinger, RB, R-Jr.; Sean Prophit, RB, So.; Jack Euritt, WR, R-Sr.; Ryan Skibinski, WR, So.; Adam Trautman, TE, R-So.; Matt Tunnacliffe, TE, R-Jr.; Wes Hegemann, OG, Sr.; Ben Gauthier, OT, Jr.; Nick Surges, DE, Sr.; Nate Marotta, DE, R-Sr.; Jack Crain, LB, R-Sr.; Andrew McCormick, LB, R-Jr.; Reagan Malas, S, Jr.; David Leisring, S, Jr.; Mike Ruffolo, PK, R-Jr.; Sean Smith, P, Jr.

OUTLOOK: Dayton, which ended last season on a seven-game winning streak, is much stronger on offense after it lost significant depth defensively. But two-year starting QB Jeske, who accounted for 15 touchdowns both on the ground and through the air as a redshirt sophomore, will miss several games with a foot injury. Bobek or Kaparos will get the season-opening assignment, but at least the Flyers have plenty of offensive weapons in big-play RB Yinger and WRs Skibinski, Euritt and Trautman, last year's three leading receivers. The big concern is the Flyers are replacing three starters on both the offensive and defensive lines. There's a standout in each defensive unit with DE Surges (8.5 sacks), LB Crain and CB Searles.


Sept. 2, at Robert Morris

Sept. 9, Southeast Missouri

Sept. 16, Duquesne

Sept. 23, at Morehead State*

Sept. 30, San Diego*

Oct. 7, at Drake*

Oct. 14, Campbell*

Oct. 21, at Davidson*

Oct. 28, Butler*

Nov. 4, Marist*

Nov. 18, at Valparaiso*

* - PFL game



LOCATION: Poughkeepsie, New York

STADIUM: Leonidoff Field

COACH: Jim Parady (129-132-1, 25 seasons)

2016 RECORDS: 5-6, 5-3 PFL (4th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 14 (7 offense/7 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Ryan Schneider, C; Cameron Gibson, CB; Mike Maccarone, PK/P

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Juston Christian, WR, Jr. (48 receptions, 992 yards, 8 TD)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Wesley Beans, FS, R-Jr. (76 TT, 3 TFL, 6 INT, 4 PBU, 1 QBH, 1 FR, 1 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Mike White, QB, R-Jr.; Marcellus Calhoun, RB, R-Sr.; Lawrence Dickens, WR/KR, Sr.; Rich Duncan-Murphy, OT, R-Sr.; Dan Wittekind, C, So.; Peter Delatour, DE, R-So.; Eddie Zinn-Turner, NT, R-So.; Willie Barrett, LB, R-Jr.; Ruben Avalos, LB, R-Sr.; Maliek Carr, LB, So.; Jordyn Jean-Felix, S, R-Jr.; Drew Daniel, CB, R-So.; Brandon Miller, CB, R-Jr.

OUTLOOK: The Red Foxes' 5-3 league record was encouraging last season, but they were 4-0 at one point before bowing out of the title race. A veteran lineup, including an offense that averaged over 30 points in PFL games, returns for Parady's 26th campaign. White set the program's single-season passing yards record (2,931) last year, although he faced a lot of pass rushers and his completion percentage was below 49 percent. It should improve with the return of big-play WR Christian, and veteran RB Calhoun has twice led the team in rushing. A young front six has grown up in the 3-3-5 defense, which returns its top three tacklers in FS Beans (76) and LBs Barrett (73) and Avalos (69). The Red Foxes face Dayton and San Diego on the road.


Sept. 2, at Bucknell

Sept. 9, Stetson*

Sept. 16, at Georgetown

Sept. 23, Jacksonville*

Sept. 30, at Davidson*

Oct. 7, Columbia

Oct. 14, at Valparaiso*

Oct. 21, Drake*

Nov. 4, at Dayton*

Nov. 11, Morehead State*

Nov. 18, at San Diego*

* - PFL game



LOCATION: Buies Creek, North Carolina

STADIUM: Barker-Lane Stadium

COACH: Mike Minter (18-27, four seasons)

2016 RECORDS: 5-5, 3-4 PFL (6th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 11 (6 offense/5 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: De'Shawn Jones, RB; Syd Holt, DE; Chris Beaty, CB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Aaron Blockmon, WR, Jr. (54 receptions, 1,038 yards, 10 TD)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Jack Ryan, LB, R-Jr. (63 TT, 9 TFL, 3 Sacks, 1 PBU, 5 QBH)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Elijah Burress, QB, R-So.; Anthony Robbins, QB, Sr.; Rocky Reid, RB, R-So. (Wake Forest transfer); Zach Roderick, WR, So.; Trey Sanders, WR/RS, R-Jr.; Aaron Dobbins, TE, R-Fr.; Josh Hutto, OT, R-Sr.; Schuler Littleton, OT, R-Jr.; Brian Stryffeler, OG, R-Sr.; Darren Flowers, DE, R-Sr.; Terence Harper, DL, R-So.; Isaiah King, DL, R-Jr.; Ray Miller, LB, So.; Scott Miller, LB, R-Sr.; Landon Machristie, LB, R-So.; Carlos Merritt, DB, R-Sr.; Dante Simmons, CB, R-Sr.; Darion Slade, DB, So.; Mitchell Brown, PK, Sr.

OUTLOOK: Campbell, which returned to football in 2008 after a 58-year hiatus, is playing its final season in the PFL before moving to the scholarship level of the Big South. It's possible Minter could hold some players back with redshirts to have a stronger team next season. QB Burress returns from injury to combine again with Blockmon, the Camels' all-time leading receiver (1,491 yards) after just two seasons. The other potential offensive difference maker is RB Reid, a Wake Forest transfer. The defense had a relatively inexperienced nucleus last season, but linebacker and defensive back are now strengths. The Camels have yet to finish above a tie for fifth place under Minter.


Aug. 31, Methodist

Sept. 9, Georgetown

Sept. 16, at Presbyterian

Sept. 23, at Stetson*

Sept. 30, Morehead State*

Oct. 7, Valparaiso*

Oct. 14, at Dayton*

Oct. 21, at Butler*

Oct. 28, Jacksonville*

Nov. 4, at Davidson*

Nov. 11, Drake*

* - PFL game



LOCATION: Des Moines, Iowa

STADIUM: Drake Stadium

COACH: Rick Fox (19-14, three seasons)

2016 RECORDS: 7-4, 6-2 PFL (3rd)

STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (5 offense/8 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Conley Wilkins, RB; Eric Saubert, TE; Taylor Coleman, LB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Grant Kraemer, QB, Sr. (186 of 325, 2,403 yards, 23 TD, 11 INT)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Mack Marrin, DL, R-Sr. (17 TT in injury-plagued season)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Taylor Murph, RB, So.; Drew Lauer, RB, Jr.; Devin Cates, WR, Jr.; Steven Doran, WR, Jr.; Payson Wick, OL, R-Sr.; Ryan Lemke, OL, R-Sr.; Ben Mawdsley, OL, So.; Nathan Clayberg, DL, Sr.; Tanner Evans, DL, R-Sr.; Mike Maise, LB, R-Sr.; Zac Rujawitz, LB, Jr.; Terry Wallen, DB/PR, Sr.; Austin Dismond, DB, Sr.; Cooper Christiano, DB, Jr.; Jabari Butler, DB, Sr.; Will Warner, DB, So.; Sean Lynch, DB, Sr.

OUTLOOK: Kraemer, who threw for 2,403 yards and 23 touchdowns, is overlooked in a league with some excellent quarterbacks. The Bulldogs need him to rise to an even higher level because their offense lost its go-to players and has an inexperienced offensive line. Among the departed is 1,000-yard rusher Wilkins and the receiving corps was decimated, including Saubert getting drafted by the Atlanta Falcons. The defensive line will get stronger if All-PFL DE Marrin gets back to his 2015 form and joins with Evans, another fifth-year senior, to form a solid pass rush.


Sept. 2, South Dakota

Sept. 9, Southwestern College

Sept. 16, at South Dakota State

Sept. 23, Valparaiso*

Sept. 30, at Butler*

Oct. 7, Dayton*

Oct. 21, at Marist*

Oct. 28, Davidson*

Nov. 4, at San Diego*

Nov. 11, at Campbell*

Nov. 18, Jacksonville*

* - PFL game



LOCATION: Jacksonville, Florida

STADIUM: D.B. Milne Field

COACH: Ian Shields (5-5, one season; 21-11 overall)

2016 RECORDS: 5-5, 4-3 PFL (5th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 14 (8 offense/6 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Ulysses Bryant, RB; Justin Horton, LB; Grady Redding LB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Rylan Wells, QB, R-Sr. (104 of 186, 1,744 yards, 11 TD, 7 INT; 133 carries, 614 yards, 11 TD)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Harrison Rodormer, LB, Sr. (62 TT, 10.5 TFL, 5 Sacks, 1 PBU, 1 QBH)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Pernell Rattray, RB/KR, Sr.; Irvin Riley, RB, So.; Jared Morris, FB, So.; Prince Gray, WR/PR, R-Jr.; Brian Burnett, WR, Sr.; Jake Dempsey, OL, Jr.; Tyler Havenner, DL, Sr.; Casey Wakeley, LB, So.; Thomas Oporto, S/LB, R-Jr.; Griffin Garland, DB, Sr.; C.J. Lewis, DB, So.; Emon Smith, DB, Sr.; Javier Arce-Ramirez, PK, R-So.

OUTLOOK: Despite an eighth-place forecast in last year's PFL preseason poll, the perennial league power was competitive in Shields' first season. The Dolphins adjusted well to a new running-style offense and many of the key players return from the unit, whose 248.2 rushing yards per game led the league. Wells comes off a big season directing the attack and with an injury to Bryant, the school's No. 2 all-time rusher, other backs developed behind him. Top WRs Gray and Bennett even combined for 72 receptions. The defense struggled more than the offense, finishing 10th in the PFL in points allowed per game (33.3). The schedule is favorable as the Dolphins avoid Dayton and Marist.


Aug. 31, at Mercer

Sept. 16, Walsh

Sept. 23, at Marist*

Sept. 30, Guilford

Oct. 7, Davidson*

Oct. 14, at Butler*

Oct. 21, San Diego*

Oct. 28, at Campbell*

Nov. 4, Valparaiso*

Nov. 11, Stetson*

Nov. 18, at Drake*

* - PFL game



LOCATION: Morehead, Kentucky

STADIUM: Jayne Stadium

COACH: Rob Tenyer (18-28, four seasons)

2016 RECORDS: 4-7, 3-5 PFL (tie/7th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 10 (5 offense/5 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Austin Gahafer, QB; Jake Raymond, Slot; Ryan Bennett, LB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Trevor Jones, RB/PR, R-So. (88 carries, 507 yards, 7 TD)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Colt Briggs, DE, Grad (80 TT, 17.5 TFL, 5 Sacks, 1 PBU, 5 QBH, 2 FR, 1 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Lawson Page, QB, R-Jr.; Jack Sherry, QB, R-Sr.; Christian Robinson, Slot, Sr.; Landon Hurst, Slot, R-Fr.; Nathan Sames, Slot, R-Jr.; Jarin Higginbotham, WR, R-Jr.; Jake Sutherland, TE, Sr.; Kyler Corbett, OL, R-Sr.; William Currie, OL, R-Sr.; R.T. Sutherland, DL, R-Jr.; Kordell Brown, LB, So.; Sayyid Kanu, S, R-Jr.; Aaron Turk, S, R-So.; Braylyn Cook, CB, Sr.; Brandyn Duncan, CB, R-Jr.

OUTLOOK: The Eagles appeared primed for title contention last year after going 7-4 (6-2 PFL) in 2015, but they disappointed despite having Gahafer, their record-setting quarterback, as a third-year starter. This season, the expectations are tempered. Tenyer will assume play calling on offense and run an extremely fast tempo. Page, a mobile sophomore, could run the offense, which must cut down on turnovers. The Eagles allowed a league-low 34.5 points per game, but with more experience on the defensive line and at linebackers, the defense should be improved. Briggs is a difference maker at defensive end.


Aug. 31, Kentucky Christian

Sept. 9, at Liberty

Sept. 16, at Austin Peay

Sept. 23, Dayton*

Sept. 30, at Campbell*

Oct. 7, Butler*

Oct. 14, at San Diego*

Oct. 21, Stetson*

Oct. 28, at Valparaiso*

Nov. 11, at Marist*

Nov. 18, Davidson*

* - PFL game



LOCATION: Indianapolis

STADIUM: Butler Bowl

COACH: Jeff Voris (64-60, 11 seasons; 79-94 overall)

2016 RECORDS: 4-7, 2-6 PFL (Tie/9th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 11 (5 offense/6 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Malcolm Weaver, QB; Jordan Ransone, DL; Sean Horan, LB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Pace Temple, WR, Jr. (61 receptions, 978 yards, 5 TD)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Ethan Brunhofer, LB, Sr. (74 TT, 7 TFL, 5 QBH, 1 FR, 1 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Will Marty, QB, R-Jr.; Duvante Lane, RB, R-Sr.; Anthony Scaccia, RB, R-Jr.; Nick Weaver, WR, R-Sr.; Cord Collier, TE, R-Sr.; Bobby Jensen, OL, R-Jr.; Dakota Sneed, OL, R-Jr.; Josh Willis, DL, R-Sr.; Chad Burdo, DL, R-Sr.; Chris Boudoures, LB, Sr.; Dalton Rogers, DB, Jr.; Mike Cerone, DB, R-Jr.; Isaac Newhouse, DB, Sr.; Drew Bevelhimer, PK, So.

OUTLOOK: Since winning back-to-back PFL titles in 2012 and '13, Butler is only 8-16 in league games. A difficult road portion of the schedule awaits the Bulldogs, who lost a lot on defense in addition to four starters on the offensive line. There's strength in the skills positions with WR Temple and RB Lane, who rushed for 706 yards and nine touchdowns. They will help ease the transition on a new starting quarterback, Marty. The defense was outstanding against the run, but it must improve against the pass after allowing a PFL-worst 289 yards per game through the air.


Sept. 2, at Illinois State

Sept. 9, at Franklin

Sept. 16, Taylor

Sept. 23, at San Diego*

Sept. 30, Drake*

Oct. 7, at Morehead State*

Oct. 14, Jacksonville*

Oct. 21, Campbell*

Oct. 28, at Dayton*

Nov. 4, at Stetson*

Nov. 11, Valparaiso*

* - PFL game



LOCATION: Valparaiso, Indiana

STADIUM: Brown Field

COACH: Dave Cecchini (9-24, three seasons)

2016 RECORDS: 4-7, 3-5 PFL (Tie/7th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 17 (9 offense/8 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Brandon Doepke, DL; Charlie Hackett, DL; Idode Kerobo, DB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Jarrett Morgan, RB, Sr. (156 carries, 576 yards, 2 TD; 30 receptions, 285 yards, 3 TD)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Drew Snouffer, LB, Jr. (102, 7 TFL, 4 Sacks, 2 INT, 5 PBU, 5 QBH, 2 FR, 1 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Jimmy Seewald, QB, So.; Chris Duncan, QB, R-Fr.; Cody Boxrucker, RB, So.; Frank Catrine, WR, Sr.; Jean Rene, WR, Sr.; Griffin Norberg, WR, Jr.; Mason Sutter, TE, Jr.; Ryan Clarke, TE, Sr.; Tristan De La Rosa, DL, Sr.; Nick Turner, LB, Jr.; Mike Wheeler, LB, Jr.; J.J. Nunes, DB, R-Sr.; Joey Diaz-Martinez, DB, Jr.; Kellan Hughes, DB, Sr.; Brandon Riley, DB, Sr.; Bailey Gessinger, RS/WR, So.

OUTLOOK: Last year's three PFL wins were the most for the Crusaders since 2003, so with the return of 17 starters, they will try to climb the PFL standings. Seewald returns off a strong freshman season and has all of his top receivers, led by Catrine (42 receptions) and Rene (31), back in the fold. One-time starting quarterback Clarke has even moved to tight end. Like RB Morgan, LB Snouffer made the PFL preseason first team. The secondary gets a boost from Nunes receiving a sixth season of eligibility.


Sept. 2, at Montana

Sept. 9, Duquesne

Sept. 16, at Trinity International

Sept. 23, at Drake*

Sept. 30, Stetson*

Oct. 7, at Campbell*

Oct. 14, Marist*

Oct. 28, Morehead State*

Nov. 4, at Jacksonville*

Nov. 11, at Butler*

Nov. 18, Dayton*

* - PFL game



LOCATION: DeLand, Florida

STADIUM: Spec Martin Memorial Stadium

COACH: Roger Hughes (14-31, four seasons; 61-83 overall)

2016 RECORDS: 4-7, 2-6 PFL (9th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 11 (4 offense/7 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Cole Mazza, RB; David Lazear, OLB; Donald Payne, FS

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Donald Parham, TE, Jr. (37 receptions, 455 yards, 6 TD)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Jeb Boudreaux, LB, Grad (116 TT, 19 TFL, 4 Sacks, 1 PBU, 6 QBH, 2 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Colin McGovern, QB, R-Jr; Cole Martin, QB, So.; Nick Andreas, QB, Jr.; Arkee Brown, RB, Jr.; Chase Blackmon, RB, R-Fr.; Jack Bowen, WR, Fr.; Jim McCammon, OL, Jr.; Josh Miller, OL, So.; Andrew Rogalski, OL, Jr.; Eddie Curry, DL, Grad; Greg Moore, DT, Fr.; Eric Martin, FS, Sr.; Jackie Johnson, CB, Jr.; Dre Long, CB, Grad; Conrad Fonseca, DB, R-Jr.; Chancellor Jackson, DB, Sr.

OUTLOOK: After going through five quarterbacks last season, losing original starter McGovern to a dislocated hip in the preseason, the Hatters believe this season will go differently. But Gaven DeFilippo, who made seven starts, won't play this year after suffering labrum and ACL tears on the same play at Campbell. Parham, a 6-foot-9, 235-pound tight end, will be a go-to option after a breakout sophomore season. On defense, Boudreaux was the surprise of the year, leading the league with 116 tackles. The defense also is strong up front, while the secondary must overcome the loss of four-year standout Payne. This is the first season in which Stetson will play an entirely FCS schedule.


Sept. 2, at Sacred Heart

Sept. 9, at Marist*

Sept. 16, Dartmouth

Sept. 23, Campbell*

Sept. 30, at Valparaiso*

Oct. 7, Brown

Oct. 14, Davidson*

Oct. 21, at Morehead State*

Oct. 28, San Diego*

Nov. 4, Butler*

Nov. 11, at Jacksonville*

* - PFL game



LOCATION: Davidson, North Carolina

STADIUM: Richardson Stadium

COACH: Paul Nichols (5-40, four seasons)

2016 RECORDS: 2-9, 0-8 PFL (11th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (8 offense/5 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Chase Davis, OL; Alex Behrend, DL; Jaylen Mize, DB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Stockton McGuire, QB, So. (93 of 223, 1,230 yards, 8 TD, 9 INT; 107 carries, 537 yards, 4 TD)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Thomas Sykes, DL, Sr. (37 TT, 9 TFL, 2.5 Sacks, 2 PBU, 2 QBH, 1 FR)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Keylan Brown, RB, So.; Isaiah Anthony, RB, So.; Jaris Scott, WR, Sr.; William Wicks, WR, So.; Cam Cheuvront, WR, Sr.; Daniel Runck, OL, Jr.; Boo Jordan, DL, Jr.; Bryce Perry-Martin, DL, So.; Hunter Murphy, DL, So.; Bryce Perry-Martin, DL, So.; Clay Robinson, DL, Jr.; George Hatalowich, LB, So.; Ryan Samuels, LB, Sr.; Ben Hart, LB, Sr.; Ben Rowell, DB/PR, Sr.; Trevor Smith, PK/P, Sr.

OUTLOOK: Nicholls' 1-31 record in PFL games doesn't reflect much progress, but the Wildcats lost three of their first four league games last season by four points or fewer, so they may be ready for an increase in wins. McGuire was the 2016 PFL freshman offensive player of the year and should improve as a passer with the return of senior WRs Scott and Cheuvront. The defense also has made strides under Nichols, led by pass rushers Jordan and Sykes and LB Samuels, the Wildcats' top returning tackler. The Wildcats were plus-four in turnover margin, finishing third in the league.


Sept. 2, Brevard

Sept. 9, at Western Carolina

Sept. 16, Guilford

Sept. 30, Marist*

Oct. 7, at Jacksonville*

Oct. 14, at Stetson*

Oct. 21, Dayton*

Oct. 28, at Drake*

Nov. 4, Campbell*

Nov. 11, San Diego*

Nov. 18, at Morehead State*

* - PFL game